Women & Heart Disease

While most women are aware of their risk for breast cancer, many don’t realize a larger threat is beating inside their chests - heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of American women, killing more women than all cancers combined. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than men. 

In people with coronary heart disease, a substance called plaque builds up in their coronary arteries. When these arteries become narrowed or blocked, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is reduced, increasing your risk of heart attack. The good news is that heart disease is preventable. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your risk factors and to talk to your doctor about how you can keep your heart healthy.

Risk Factors

Learn about your risk factors - both those you can and cannot control - and then start taking proactive steps to minimize those risks and stay healthy.

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Heart Attack Symptoms

Learning to recognize the signs of a heart attack in women prepares you to more effectively seek immediate medical care when necessary.

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Heart Disease Treatment

Learn how you and your SSM Health provider can work together to build a plan to help minimize your heart disease risk and live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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How is Heart Disease Different in Women?

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, there are major differences in how women experience the disease. Heart disease generally occurs ten years later in women, and on average, a woman’s first heart attack occurs at age 70. Women also have a worse prognosis once they are diagnosed with heart disease and are more likely to die within the first year after a heart attack. Finally, women having a heart attack often have subtler symptoms, leading to a delay in critical, life-saving treatment.

Understanding the symptoms of heart attack in women could help save your life. Because of these differences, the warning signs of heart disease are often overlooked in women.

Talking to Your Doctor About Heart Disease

Because the disease is often unrecognized, it’s important to have ongoing, open communications with your doctor. These ten questions can help get you started:

  • What are my risk factors for heart disease?
  • Am I at risk for stroke?
  • What are the warning signs of heart attack and stroke?
  • What should I know about the effects of menopause on my health?
  • Do I need to lose or gain weight for my health?
  • What is a healthful eating plan for me?
  • What kind of physical activity is right for me?
  • What is my blood pressure? Is that healthy for my age?
  • What is my cholesterol? Is that a healthy level?
  • Based on my history and risk factors, what can I do to lower my risk of heart disease and stroke?

Schedule an appointment with your health care provider today to talk about your heart health.

For every woman who dies of breast cancer, five women die from heart attacks. Fortunately, you can prevent heart disease when you make your health a priority and establish heart-healthy habits. Start by taking our heart risk assessment and then have a heart-to-heart with your SSM Health physician about the steps you can take to minimize your heart attack risk.


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